Overhauled permit rules would streamline review process

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HARRISBURG -- Revamped permitting guidelines released Thursday by state environmental regulators propose to make the review process more efficient and outline several criteria for how applications may rise to the top of the pile.

The potential changes are the result of an executive order issued last month, which directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to overhaul its rules for issuing permits related to areas such as erosion and sedimentation control, oil and gas operations and water and air quality.

An earlier "money-back guarantee" on permits that exceed their review timetables was revoked. Instead, the 26-page document states, any permit lacking the necessary materials would be denied.

Those with the proper paperwork, but later deemed incomplete in some way, would be returned for more work and the agency's guarantee of review within a certain time period would be voided.

Permit applications would not necessarily be reviewed in the order they are received. Those with environmental or public safety impacts would be a priority, as would those that provide significant economic benefits.

Agency spokesman Kevin Sunday said the Governor's Action Team, which is involved in economic development efforts, could play a role in determining the job figures related to a project. He added that the agency is seeking feedback on that section in particular.

The changes would streamline the review process for more than 240 different agency permits. Public comments will be accepted until Oct. 1, after which the agency will post its final rules.

While the permit guidelines cover a wide swath of activities, the natural gas drilling industry has been particularly vocal about what it feels is a sluggish process. In a statement, Marcellus Shale Coalition president Kathryn Klaber referred to the proposed revisions as "common-sense efforts" and said they could help ensure that the state remains competitive.

One environmental advocate who had been critical following the July executive order on the permitting changes, George Jugovic of PennFuture, said he had not yet reviewed the agency proposal late Thursday afternoon.

state - marcellusshale - environment

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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